Most brands acknowledge consumers want and expect everything to taste great. I constantly hear, “Just make it taste great, no matter what.” Unfortunately, a lot of really effective ingredients taste or smell like dirt, grass, wood … or worse. I will refrain from using words I have heard to describe certain tastes and smells to keep this a family-friendly article. In the past, those ingredients were simply left out or “fairy dusted” in proprietary formulas.
More recently, many flavor specialists just overpower the nasties with sweetener or acid—a method that works but can end up making the product taste super sweet or leave a seriously strong chemical-like aftertaste. Even more disheartening, a manufacturer will simply say something cannot be flavored. In some cases that is true, but often, that mentality is due to a lack of depth in technique or time willing to be put in to find a solution. A brand has one chance to win a customer, so removing the offensive ingredients is by far easier—but finding a way to capture it all will make a consumer a lifelong advocate of one’s brand.
While the term “flavor chemist” is often used, “artist” may be more appropriate. Chemistry works in some instances, but often draws a strong line between known taste and perceived taste. This draws me to the parallel of wine tasting, where a sommelier will say she tastes “leather,” or “lead” or “pencil shavings.” I’m not sure about you, but the last time I had pencil shavings was the fourth grade and obviously it didn’t taste good, as that has not been part of my diet since. The point? Perception is a one-way street and whether an expert is involved or not on the flavoring end, it only matters what the customer thinks. Instead, work with manufacturers that start with a blank canvas and work through things, rather than those that apply standard methods.
To that end, provide additional time in a “rush to market” strategy so the product can get closer to perfect. Several flavor houses (makers/manufacturers of flavors) have done a great job building both natural and artificial masking agents, as well as powerful flavors, to help fight the taste issue.
Formulators and manufacturers should spend more time working with flavor groups to develop ways to overcome the taste obstacles. And brands are welcome to have outside help making products their best—after all, it is their brand. For those that have been able to make nasty ingredients taste good, it means that the addition of unique ingredients at full efficacy dosing is now fair game and clearly a playing field advantage.
This article was excerpted from a longer piece, “Challenges in formulating, flavoring and manufacturing pre-workouts” from the “Energy ingredients with market buzz” digital magazine. Click the link and open to the TOC to browse this and other features.